We’re at a turning point in mobile paid search.
The fact is, most paid search practitioners were trained in a desktop-first world, but many are now spending nearly half (or more) of their budgets on mobile search. As it often does, consumer behavior has outpaced marketer reaction, so we’re left with a situation in which yesterday’s thinking is largely being applied to today’s challenges.
Mobile is the biggest change in paid search since its inception, and thus we have to push the discussion forward in order to truly unlock the potential of this channel. Those who are quick to adapt and evolve will reap the benefits in this “bubble” until the rest of us catch up.
But what will the next evolution of mobile paid search marketing look like?
Once thing we know is that very soon, nearly every search user will also be a mobile search user.
As we look to relevant examples of how other digital channels have evolved — including the early days of SEM, display/banners, and social — we see that the first phase of a new channel usually focuses on tactical execution, then matures into something more compelling and complex.
The same will happen here.
Will you lead or follow?
The Mobile Paid Search Evolution
Google’s forced migration to Enhanced Campaigns two years ago marked the major turning point of mobile paid search. Since then, much of the tactical stuff’s been figured out.
We’ve learned from trial and error things such as which campaigns do better on mobile and the kinds of bids we should be using by device. We even have a good sense of how ad copy should differ when displaying to mobile searchers. Even the tool providers have worked hard to build mobile-specific solutions to help support these initiatives.
For the most part, today’s default, single paid search strategy is to build a foundation for all platforms (mainly desktop oriented), and then tweak and modify it for mobile devices. That’s definitely a v1.0 approach.
For the sake of definition:
- Mobile Paid Search approach v1.0 focused on execution — understanding the tactical nuances of running mobile campaigns, best practices for mobile vs. desktop, etc.
- Mobile Paid Search approach v2.0 will focus on the philosophical approach to the art of the medium — essentially, a “mobile-first” mindset which takes into account the device experience (even if it’s desktop) of the consumer base in all aspects of paid search management and optimization.
Mobile Paid Search v1.0: A Focus On Execution
As I researched this article, I found a lot of great tips and tricks for paid search marketers from the first phase of mobile paid search.
Here are three I thought I’d share:
- From Mashable: Check average position.
Be sure to check your average position to find out where your ad is appearing on the search results page. On a regular paid search campaign, there are up to 11 ads shown on any given page. But in mobile, that’s usually limited to two or three. So, if your average position in your mobile paid search campaign isn’t better than three, you’re really not showing up where you need to be.
- From Search Engine Land: Use shorter queries.
With mobile devices, searchers will not be typing up a storm. So for your mobile campaigns, target shorter queries that people can easily type on their phones. An obvious exception to shorter keyword phrases is if people are using voice search on their mobile devices. With wider adoption of such technology, mobile campaigns may eventually convert for longer queries.
- From Search Engine Journal: Account for misspellings.
Mobile searches include more misspellings and shorter phrases. This is critical to remember during the bidding process. It means you should start broad to discover mobile keyword phrases and then optimize from there.
These are all great tips, and they surfaced during the early days when search marketers were just starting to wrap their heads around the mobile channel. Very tactical. Very best practice focused. Good stuff, for sure — especially three to five years ago as mobile paid search was still fledgling.
Mobile Paid Search v2.0: Refining The “Mobile-First” Approach
The v1.0 paid search practitioners think a lot about keywords and bids.
The v2.0, “mobile-first” paid search marketers will approach this medium differently — and they should!
In addition to keywords and bids, the v2.0 mobile paid search marketers will be concerned with:
- The dynamics of where a search takes place and how near or far it is to other locations
- The impact of when a consumer is searching; not just the day or time of day but when in their day: on the go, rush hour bus ride, etc.
- The realities of the consumer’s physical search experience including screen size, device type, carrier, etc.
- The potential local intent of every mobile search
It doesn’t mean that the v1.0 search marketer doesn’t consider these variables — they absolutely do. However, the mobile-first marketer will really address them at every step of the campaign process.
A v2.0 Discussion Starter: The 4 Mobile Moments
I thought this recent one-sheeter by Google was a good example of a thought-provoking, “v2.0” piece.
Instead of focusing on tactical tips and tricks, it attempts to organize the data on hand in a way that can help educate paid search marketers to better understand the mobile landscape. To do this, it divides mobile search into four distinct moments:
- I-want-to-know moments
- I-want-to-go moments
- I-want-to-do moments
- I-want-to-buy moments
I-want-to-know moments. Instant access to data is a mobile phenomenon. The power of information at a consumer’s fingertips is unprecedented in human history. The mobile search engine represents the ultimate “answering machine,” and every search is an opportunity for an advertiser to reach an interested consumer.
- 65% of online consumers look up more information online now versus a few years ago.
- 66% of smartphone users turn to their phones to look up something they saw in a TV commercial.
I-want-to-go moments. The mobile phone is also a consumer’s personal guide to the area. Where to eat, where to shop, where to get their car fixed. Consumers are asking their search engines for advice almost as much as they ask their friends.
- 2X increase in “near me” search interest in the past year.
- 82% of smartphone users use a search engine when looking for a local business.
I-want-to-do moments. When people want to do something, they might be open to spending money (even if it’s just on materials for home projects). At the very least, advertisers can align keywords with the interests and behaviors of their target audience as they’re actively searching on the things they want to do.
- 91% of smartphone users turn to their phones for ideas while doing a task.
- 100M+ hours of “how-to” content have been watched on YouTube so far this year.
I-want-to-buy moments. Certainly the sweet spot for retailers is shopping intent. Who doesn’t check their phone for more information or better pricing on big ticket items?
- 82% of smartphone users consult their phones while in a store deciding what to buy.
- 29% increase in mobile conversion rates in the past year.
I’m not implying this is the only way to think about the mobile searcher. However, these are interesting categories that could be used to refine your mobile search practice versus just another tip on how to raise or lower your mobile bids — v2.0 strategic thinking versus v1.0 tactical thinking.
So I ask you, reader: How strong is your mobile approach to paid search? Do you truly think through how your consumers are utilizing mobile search in their decision making process, or are you just applying a bid modifier? Are you thinking about time and place, or are you writing mobile ad copy that is virtually identical to the desktop ad copy with just a few “mobile tweaks”? Are you optimizing correctly based on the mobile searcher’s customer journey, or are you using what you have learned during the desktop-dominated era?
Are you in a v1.0 mindset — or are you beginning to think like a v2.0 mobile search marketer?